The Arbitrary and Contradictory Concept of Human Races
by camilleouellet on September 14, 2016 - 9:01am
For the last few weeks, I started to think that the concept of race was a really odd one. Why would we, humans, keep perpetuating the false idea that we are all different, only because of our skin color, hair texture, or eyes shape? Like Jared Diamond claims in his article “Race Without Color” and as we saw in class, there is no biological dissimilarities between the different “races”, and it is illogical to classify humans in categories since “we could have classified races based on any number of geographically variable traits” (Diamond, 1994, para. 37).
As simple as it may sound, it is fairly difficult to differentiate “races” from another, as we saw in the exercise we did on the computer during on first week of class. It reminded me of last year, when I was talking with a teammate and mentioned she was a “white” person. She got really mad, and told me that her mother was “black”, which made her bi-racial – but still, she identified as a “black” woman, even though we all thought she was not at first. With such uncertainties between where do we “belong” to, it would be so much simpler to stop differentiating ourselves because of our skin colors; especially when there are so many other traits we could have used to classify humans, which are never concordant with the classification we created with skin color, like Diamond stated throughout most of his article. He gave the example of how in some southern European populations and in most African ones, people are lactose intolerant, but how Arabians, north Indians, and northern Europeans have the enzyme lactase that permits them to drink milk even at adulthood (Diamond, 1994, para. 19). If we tried to classify humans in different “races” with this particular trait, we would have new categories where “most African ‘blacks’, Japanese, and American Indians” (Diamond, 1994, para. 20) belong in the same “race”, which is clearly non-concordant with the segregating we currently have, and shows how silly the classification of races is. But still, we only want to believe what we see. And some of us, who have been misinformed their whole life, still believe that because we look different, we are different – therefore, making them think that we can compare each other, which only “fosters our subconscious differentiation between ‘us’ and ‘them’” (Diamond, 1994, para. 6). I think that this is why we should not be proud to belong to especially one “race”, just like my teammate did last year when she tried to tell us she was different than us since she was a “black” woman.
I think it is time for schools and the medias to start informing people about how there are no real distinctions between all humans, so we can stop comparing ourselves and perpetuating erroneous and untrue stereotypes. And maybe that, one day, we will all feel like we belong to the same big race; let’s call it the human race.
Diamond, J. (2016, Winter). Race Without Color. In A. Nouvet (Ed.), Anthropology 381-101-LA: The Myth of Race and the Reality of Racism. Saint-Lambert, QC: Champlain.